30th August, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘BIMSTEC summit’ (GS2: Regional groupings)
Issue: Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Nepal on Thursday to attend the 4th BIMSTEC Summit on the sidelines of which he will hold bilateral meetings with regional leaders, including Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Bangladeshi Premier Sheikh Hasina
Theme of the summit is ‘Towards a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable Bay of Bengal region’.
The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an international organisation of seven nations of South Asia and South East Asia, housing 1.5 billion people and having a combined gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion (2014)
The BIMSTEC member states—Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan, and Nepal—are among the countries dependent on the Bay of Bengal.
Fourteen priority sectors of cooperation have been identified and several BIMSTEC centers have been established to focus on those sectors. The 14 main objectives of BIMSTEC is technological and economic cooperation among south Asian and southeast Asian countries along the coast of the bay of Bengal. Commerce, Investment, Technology, Tourism, Human Resource Development, Agriculture, Fisheries, Transport and Communication, Textiles, Leather etc. have been included in it. Provide cooperation to one another for the provision of training and research facilities in educational vocational and technical fields. Promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in economic, social, technical and scientific fields of common interest.
‘2+2 dialogues’ (GS2: Bilateral relations between India and USA)
Issue: The India-U.S. “2+2” dialogue will see the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman meet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis on September 6 in Delhi.
Need for such an engagement
- Despite close diplomatic exchanges, key defence agreements have not yet been completed. Several deals and high technology purchases require U.S. Congress clearance too, so it was felt necessary for the defence and diplomatic arms of Delhi and Washington to meet.
- The talks will also review the U.S.’s South Asia policy on Afghanistan and its Indo-Pacific strategy, both of which give India centre stage.
- It will also give a chance to iron out differences that has arisen on trade front recently
Significance of this meeting
- 2+2 will discuss how to “operationalise India’s status as a major defence partner
- Apart from discussions on various defence purchases ranging from missile systems (NASAMS-II) to helicopters (24 Sikorsky MH-60 Romeo maritime helicopters) to drones (predator-B), the two sides are expected to sign the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) that has been pending for some years due to objections in India over sharing critical information
- Setting up a direct hotline on Defence between Ms. Sitharaman and Mr. Mattis. Cooperation on fighting terrorism is expected to be a major issue for discussion
- Trade is increasingly seen as a “strategic” issue in India-U.S. ties, and many of the economic irritants in the relationship are expected to be discussed, including the U.S. demands on lowering tariffs and subsidies, India’s impending action at the WTO against the U.S., the Reserve Bank of India’s “data localization” order, and price caps on medical devices.
‘Great Red Spot’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: The pressure of the water combined with their measurements of another oxygen-bearing gas, carbon monoxide, imply that Jupiter has two to nine times more oxygen than the Sun, researchers said.
About the new findings
- The pressure of the water combined with their measurements of another oxygen-bearing gas, carbon monoxide, imply that Jupiter has two to nine times more oxygen than the Sun, researchers said.
- The revelation was stirring given that the team’s experiment could have easily failed. The Great Red Spot is full of dense clouds, which makes it hard for electromagnetic energy to escape and teach astronomers anything about the chemistry within.
- Jupiter is thought to be the first planet to have formed by siphoning the elements left over from the formation of the Sun as our star coalesced from an amorphous nebula into the fiery ball of gases we see today.
- A widely accepted theory until several decades ago was that Jupiter was identical in composition to the Sun; a ball of hydrogen with a hint of helium — all gas, no core. But evidence is mounting that Jupiter has a core, possibly 10 times Earth’s mass
- Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system.
- Jupiter helped revolutionize the way we saw the universe and ourselves in 1610, when Galileo discovered Jupiter’s four large moons — Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, now known as the Galilean moons. This was the first time that celestial bodies were seen circling an object other than Earth, major support of the Copernican view that Earth was not the center of the universe.
- The most extraordinary feature on Jupiter is undoubtedly the Great Red Spot, a giant hurricane-like storm seen for more than 300 years. At its widest, the Great Red Spot is three times the diameter of the Earth, and its edge spins counterclockwise around its center at a speed of about 225 mph (360 km/h). The color of the storm, which usually varies from brick red to slightly brown, may come from small amounts of sulfur and phosphorus in the ammonia crystals in Jupiter’s clouds. grows and shrinks. The spot has been shrinking for quite some time, although the rate may be slowing in recent years.
- Jupiter’s gargantuan magnetic field is the strongest of all the planets in the solar system at nearly 20,000 times the strength of Earth’s. It traps electrically charged particles in an intense belt of electrons and other electrically charged particles that regularly blasts the planet’s moons and rings with a level of radiation more than 1,000 times the lethal level for a human, damaging even heavily shielded spacecraft such as NASA’s Galileo probe.
- Jupiter spins faster than any other planet, taking a little under 10 hours to complete a turn on its axis, compared with 24 hours for Earth. This rapid spin makes Jupiter bulge at the equator and flatten at the poles, making the planet about 7 percent wider at the equator than at the poles.
- Jupiter broadcasts radio waves strong enough to detect on Earth. These come in two forms — strong bursts that occur when Io, the closest of Jupiter’s large moons, passes through certain regions of Jupiter’s magnetic field, and continuous radiation from Jupiter’s surface and high-energy particles in its radiation belts. These radio waves could help scientists to probe the oceans on its moons.
‘3D bionic eye’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: Researchers at University of Minnesota in the US started with a hemispherical glass dome to show how they could overcome the challenge of printing electronics on a curved surface.
About this bionic eye
The most surprising part of the process was the 25 per cent efficiency in converting the light into electricity they achieved with the fully 3D-printed semiconductors. The next steps for the bionic eye are to create a prototype with more light receptors that are even more efficient. They would also like to find a way to print on a soft hemispherical material that can be implanted into a real eye.
‘Demonetization’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The Reserve Bank of India’s annual report for 2017-18 said more than 99% of the Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes withdrawn from circulation in November 2016 had been returned to the central bank.
What the report says?
- RBI data showed that the value of banknotes in circulation increased by 37.7% over the year to Rs. 18.04 lakh crore as at end-March 2018.
- With more Rs. 500 notes having been pumped into the system over the last one year, the share of Rs. 2,000 notes by value declined to 37.3% as on March 2018, compared with 50.2% a year earlier. The share of Rs. 500 notes, in terms of value, increased from 22.5% to 42.9% in the same period.
‘Asian games 2018’ (Facts that could be asked in Prelims)
Issue: On Wednesday, the 25-year-old Arpinder won the men’s triple jump gold at the Asian Games. And that ended 48-year wait for the prized medal last won by Mohinder Singh Gill in 1970 at the Bangkok Asiad.
Other medals won recently include
- West Bengal’s Swapna Barman brought a rare gold too, in women’s heptathlon, and it was the country’s first in the Asiad in the event
- Dutee Chand took the women’s 200m silver, to add to the 100m medal of the same colour she had won a couple of day ago.
‘O-SMART (Ocean Services, Technology, Observations, Resources Modeling and Science)’ (GS3: Disaster management policy)
Issue: India is set to get more disaster warning systems along its coasts. The new systems will keep an eye out for tsunamis and storm surges
About the new system
- The system is part of a programme called O-SMART (Ocean Services, Technology, Observations, Resources Modeling and Science) that is being piloted by the Union earth sciences ministry. It was cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs
- O-SMART will provide economic benefits to a number of user communities in the coastal and ocean sectors, namely, fisheries, offshore industry, coastal States, defence, shipping, ports, etc.
- Other key missions under O-SMART include, strengthening of Ocean Observations and Modeling, strengthening of Ocean Services for fishermen, setting up marine observatories for monitoring marine pollution, setting up Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Plant (OTEC) in Kavaratti, acquiring two coastal research vessels, continuation of ocean survey and exploration of minerals and living resources, technology development for Deep Ocean Mining and manned submersibles and the setting up six desalination plants in Lakshadweep.
‘Rescue operations’ (GS3: Security forces)
Issue: An Indian Navy warship of the Western Naval Command patrolling the Gulf of Aden rushed to the help of a Norwegian vessel after its all-Indian crew sent a distress call
The rescue operation not only ensured onward safe voyage of MV Vela, but also averted a huge financial loss
About Gulf of Aden
The Gulf of Aden, also known as the Gulf of Berbera is a gulf amidst Yemen to the north, the Arabian Sea and Guardafui Channel to the east, Somalia to the south, and Djibouti to the west. In the northwest, it connects with the Red Sea through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, and in the southeast, it connects with the Indian Ocean through the Guardafui Channel
The waterway is part of the important Suez Canal shipping route between the Mediterranean Sea and the Arabian Sea in the Indian Ocean, with 21,000 ships crossing the gulf annually.
‘Inflation’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has warned about upside risks to inflation during the remaining part of the current financial year, ‘warranting vigil and readiness’ to deal with them.
Where could the risks come from?
The risks could emanate from rising commodity prices, especially crude oil, global financial market developments and second-round impact from revision of house rent allowance for central government staff.
Inflation concerns have led RBI to raise the key policy rate, or the repo rate, twice in the last two monetary policy meetings by 25 basis points each, to 6.5%.
On growth, RBI said incoming data pointed to favorable conditions for an acceleration of activity in the Indian economy. Such as:
- The first is infrastructure that holds the key to unleashing faster growth
- Even as infrastructure development provides the thrust, sustaining the momentum of growth will hinge around its inclusiveness and its employment intensity
Factors that need reforms so that the growth is not interrupted include resolution of banking and corporate financial stress, taxation, agriculture, liberalization of the economy’s external interface and galvanizing the business environment.
What is Inflation?
Inflation is the rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services is rising and, consequently, the purchasing power of currency is falling. Central banks attempt to limit inflation — and avoid deflation — in order to keep the economy running smoothly.
While excessive inflation and hyperinflation have negative economic consequences, deflation’s negative consequences for the economy can be just as bad or worse. Consequently, policy makers since the end of the 20th century have attempted to keep inflation steady
Inflation is generally measured in terms of a consumer price index (CPI), which tracks the prices of a basket of core goods and services over time.
‘Bank fraud’ (GS3: Indian economy)
Issue: The number of cases of fraud reported by banks increased both in terms of numbers and value in 2017-18, the Reserve Bank of India said in its annual report.
Fraud cases, which were generally hovering at about 4,500 in the last 10 years, increased to 5,835 in 2017-18
Other data mentioned in the report
the amount involved in frauds was increasing gradually, followed by a significant increase in 2017-18 to ₹410 billion. The quantum jump in the amount involved in frauds during 2017-18 was on account of a large value fraud committed in the gems and jewellery sector, mainly affecting one public sector bank
PSBs accounted for 92.9% of the amount involved in frauds of more than ₹0.1 million, while private sector banks accounted for 6%
‘Foreign direct investment’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: India remains a preferred destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) as domestic consumption remains strong, according to the RBI Annual Report.
What the data says about FDI in India?
- With manufacturing sector gathering momentum, helped by both services and agriculture sectors, consumption demand remains robust in the country making it an attractive investment destination
- India received $37.3 billion capital inflow in 2017-18 as compared with $36.3 billion in the previous fiscal. During the 2015-16, the country received $36.06 billion.
- Manufacturing activity is gathering momentum on the back of new business, both domestic and export orders, rising capacity utilization and drawdown of inventories, said the Reserve Bank of India report.
- In the services sector, it said, the impulses of growth are broadening and expansion in employment conditions is generating anticipations of improvement in demand conditions.
- The increase in foreign capital flow was mainly due to higher flows into the communication services, retail and wholesale trade, financial services and computer services.
- In terms of sources, FDI inflows were concentrated mostly in Mauritius and Singapore that accounted for about 61 per cent of total equity investments. This was despite the phased implementation of an amended double taxation avoidance agreement with these countries effective from April 2017 to prevent evasion of taxes on income and capital gains
With the ongoing policy reforms in sectors ranging from single brand retail trading, civil aviation, real estate broking service and simplification of legal and regulatory system, India moved into the top 100 countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business global rankings
According to the UNCTAD’s Investment Trends Monitor (2018), India was the 10th largest recipient of global FDI in 2017 and remained the topmost destination for greenfield capital investment — even ahead of China and the US
‘Bees’ (GS3: Environmental pollution)
Issue: Bumblebees acquire a taste for food laced with a pesticide known to harm them, according to a study suggesting the chemicals pose an even greater threat to pollinators than previously thought.
In experiments, researchers showed that bees initially put off by sugar water containing neonicotinoids — the most widely-used class of insecticides worldwide — soon started seeking them out to the exclusion of untainted food.
Neonicotinoids, earlier research has shown, disrupt the ability of bees to reproduce and lower their resistance to disease.
Significance of Bees in our ecosystem
Pollinators strongly influence ecological relationships, ecosystem conservation and stability, genetic variation in the plant community, floral diversity, specialization and evolution. Bees play an important, but little recognized role in most terrestrial ecosystems where there is green vegetation cover for at least 3 to 4 months each year. In tropical forests, savannah woodlands, mangrove, and in temperate deciduous forests, many species of plants and animals would not survive if bees were missing. This is because the production of seeds, nuts, berries and fruits are highly dependent on insect pollination, and among the pollinating insects, bees are the major pollinators
‘PRAGATI’ (GS2: E-governance)
Issue: The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, today chaired his twenty-eighth interaction through PRAGATI – the ICT-based, multi-modal platform for Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation
The 27 PRAGATI meetings so far have seen a cumulative review of projects with a total investment of over Rs. 11.5 lakh crore. Resolution of Public Grievances has also been reviewed across a range of sectors
PRAGATI is a unique integrating and interactive platform. The platform is aimed at addressing common man’s grievances, and simultaneously monitoring and reviewing important programmes and projects of the Government of India as well as projects flagged by State Governments.
The PRAGATI platform uniquely bundles three latest technologies: Digital data management, video-conferencing and geo-spatial technology. It also offers a unique combination in the direction of cooperative federalism since it brings on one stage the Secretaries of Government of India and the Chief Secretaries of the States.
It is also a robust system for bringing e-transparency and e-accountability with real-time presence and exchange among the key stakeholders.